Monthly Archives: April 2011

Batch 2: Belgian Dubbel – Brew Day

Batch number two will be a Belgian Dubbel. My favorite beers are Belgian beers and I just can’t wait to start brewing these styles myself.┬áThis recipe comes from Culver City Home Brewing Supply. (The recipe for the first batch came from San Francisco Brewcraft.)

Since the first batch I’ve purchased a thermometer.

I also bought a nice set of rubber scrapers.

Ingredients at hand and new equipment acquired, it’s time to brew!

Last time I was concerned that the hot break was never reached. To make sure we reach the hot break, this time we’re going to use two burners. The brew pot is situated such that it sits over both front burners on my stove. Not only will this setup allow us to heat the wort to a high enough temperature, it will also shorten the entire brewing process, since the contents of the brew pot must be repeatedly brought up to temperature as cooler substances are added.

We bring 3 gallons of water to a boil in the brew pot and add the malt extract and candi syrup just before the water begins boiling.

Meanwhile, the grains have been steeping in a separate pot of water. The grains are removed from the steeping water and the water is added to the brew pot.

With both burners on high it takes 20 minutes to heat the 4 gallons of wort in the brew pot from 180F to 210F.

The wort begins to boil and shortly after it’s foaming furiously! Immediately we’re turning down the burners to avoid boil over. Intense foaming continues for about 7 more minutes. When it subsides we’ve successfully reached the hot break. It’s looks like two burners is the trick!

The wort is hopped and the remaining brew time goes as planned.

To cool the wort, we fill the bathtub with about 1 foot of water and place the brew pot inside. I walk to the nearby convenience store to purchase bags of ice. I add the ice to the tub, which quickly begins to melt. This doesn’t appear to be very effective.

After about 10 minutes in the bathtub we transfer the pot to the sink and continue cooling it there, periodically replacing the water.

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It’s now almost 1:30 PM and we’ve been cooling the wort for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The wort is still about 88F and we’re looking to get it down to around 70F so as to not kill the yeast. I have an event to attend from 2 to 6 PM, and while I’m worried to leave the wort sitting out for 4 hours, I decide that it’s safer to do that than to rush, pitch the yeast now and have it die because the wort is too hot.

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It’s 7 o’clock and the wort is the correct temperature.

I sanitize the fermenter, pour in the wort and pitch the yeast.

Then I check the volume inside the fermenter. It is much lower than I expect. I’m looking to make a batch of about 5 gallons, and the current volume is only 3 gallons!

I pull out the recipe for the first batch and remember that I added water to the fermenter to bring it up to 5 gallons before pitching the yeast. It looks like I’m going to have to do that for this batch, too, but I don’t want to add unsanitized water straight from the faucet.

After thinking (read: freaking out) for a few minutes I formulate an action plan. I heat up some water on the stove, just below boiling, to sanitize it. Then I divide it into small containers and place them in the refrigerator and freezer to bring the water down to a temperature that’s safe to add to the fermenter.

1 hour later, the water still isn’t cool to 70F. I’ve waited and stressed enough over this, so I add the additional, semi-cooled water to the fermenter and seal it. Done.

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This time I forgot that I would need to add water to the fermenter to bring it to 5 gallons. If I had been content with adding water straight from the faucet, as I did with the first batch, this wouldn’t have been an issue. However, my insistence on boiling and cooling the water caused me a lot of stress. For the next batch I intend to prepare additional water in advance to prevent this debacle from repeating.

I also messed up taking a hydrometer reading for this batch. While the fact that I even took a reading is an improvement, I later realized that it wasn’t accurate at all. I took the reading using wort straight from the brew pot, before bringing the contents of the fermenter to volume. Adding water to the wort in the fermenter diluted it and lowered the specific gravity, invalidating my reading. Next time I will make sure the contents of the fermenter is at the correct volume, take a hydrometer reading, then pitch the yeast.

Mistakes aside, I’m still very excited to see how this batch turns out. Until then, I will RDWHAHB (Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Home Brew).